By Christine Murray
MEXICO CITY, Jan 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Emergency calls related to violence against women in Mexico rose more than 30% in 2020, data published on Monday showed, as COVID-19 lockdowns kept families stuck at home.
In 2020, more than 260,000 emergency calls were made about violence against women compared to under 198,000 in the previous year. Criminal investigations opened into domestic violence and other gender violence crimes rose.
Wendy Figueroa, head of the National Network of Shelters, said their members had seen higher demand for in-person help as well as via phonelines and social media.
"Without a doubt there was an increase. They aren't just numbers, they're people, they're women's stories," she said.
Across the globe, women have reported increased rates of domestic and other types of violence during coronavirus lockdowns in what the United Nations has called a "shadow pandemic."
However the report showed that the number of investigations opened in Mexico into some crimes against women fell last year, although Figueroa cautioned closer analysis was needed.
Many victims have found it harder than normal to report crimes during the pandemic, she said, as they are often unable to bring someone to accompany them and forced to queue up outside offices, potentially in full view of their aggressors.
In 2020, there were 940 reported femicides — the murder of a woman because of her gender — which was stable to the previous year after several years of sharp increases.
Surveys by national statistics agency (INEGI) show two-thirds of women in Mexico have experienced some form of violence, with almost 44% suffering abuse from a partner.
Activists have criticized the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for slashing and delaying budgets for the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES) and for shelters.
Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said on Monday that there were now clear protocols for how to investigate crimes with a gender perspective.
She added that a priority was an inter-institutional group that holds weekly meetings on the topic.
"Every day the spectrum of violence women suffer is broadened," she said, when asked about digital violence.
Mexico's senate in November unanimously approved legislation that would punish digital violence such as "revenge porn" after victims spent years campaigning for its passage.
Investigations into human trafficking in Mexico stagnated in 2020 after two years of sharp growth, with activists saying that authorities had struggled to adapt as the crime evolved and recruitment shifted online during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're living in a climate of real impunity and a total lack of response from the state," said Patricia Olamendi, an independent consultant and lawyer who represents victims of violence.
(Reporting by Christine Murray; editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)